Monday, November 15, 2010


           When you transition your child to a new school it is important for every person who comes in contact with your child to understand his special needs. He will interact with classroom teachers, special class teachers such as music, art and PE. He will come in contact with cafeteria staff, custodians, resource officers, office staff, assistants, the principal etc.
            During your transition meeting you need to discuss his communication needs  with the team. You don't want your child to get into trouble because a member of the staff doesn't understand that he may have trouble communicating or may inadvertently say something inappropriate.
            A few years ago I had a high school student who had Asperger's Syndrome. For some reason he decided to take things out of the lost and found box and put them in different places in the school. He wasn't exactly stealing. He was just rearranging. I'm not sure why he decided to do this, but I'm sure he had a reason that made sense to him at the time.
            The school resource officer wanted to talk to him about it so he called him down to the office. Since I was working with the student at the time I went down to the office with him. I spoke to the officer and asked him if he knew this student and if he had ever spoken with him before. The officer apparently thought I was questioning his authority and got a bit defensive. He responded, "Why? What's the problem?" I explained to him that this student had autism. And again he said, "So what's the problem?" I tried to explain to the officer that my student may not understand  what he is asking so he may want me to come along and help during the questioning. But the officer did not want my help. He instructed me to wait in the hall. I was more than a little nervous for my student. I was terrified that the officer would ask him a simple question and my student's reply would be bazaar. Kids with ASD can really say some strange things if they don't fully understand a question. I was afraid if this happened that the officer might think my student was being disrespectful.
            As I predicted my student did say something unusual. But thankfully the officer did not  get offended, just confused. When the officer asked my student why he took the items out of the lost and found he replied, "Because it was on purpose." When the two of them emerged from the office my student had his usual blank expression on his face, but the look on the officer's face was priceless. His eyes were wide with astonishment and bewilderment. As if to say, "What the heck?" I swallowed my  giggles out of pity and respect for the officer but I couldn't help thinking, "Dude! I tried to tell you.”
            This situation was funny, but it could have been unfortunate for my student. Kids with ASD don't look any different from other kids their age. You can't pick them out in a crowd. In some cases you can carry on a lengthy conversation and never know that there is something different. So then when the person with ASD blurts out something inappropriate or says something that doesn't quite make sense it catches you off guard. You assume that it was intentional, that this person meant to offend you. But nothing could be further from the truth. It was a misunderstanding that comes from being socially awkward and not understanding the subtle cues that are such a large part of our language.
            Please do all that you can to prepare the school staff  for your wonderfully quirky and unique child. This will help them build a meaningful and helpful relationship with him. The staff wants to do everything they can to help your child learn and grow. By helping them to get to know him ahead of time you are enabling them to give him their best.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thank you to all of you who have been reading my blog. I would love to hear some feedback though. Are you finding these ideas helpful? How do you like it? What would you like to see more of. Do you have any specific questions? Please let me know what you want and I will do my best to deliver. I'd love to hear from you.

I am on the panel of experts for Autism 2010. It is an international online autism conference. It is running now through 11/22/10. My paper that I have presented is called: Improving Social Skills in the Middle School Age Child with High Functioning Autism. Here is the link. Come join the discussions! Some remarkable experts like Professor Simon Baron Cohen are available to answers questions and discuss issues. Here is the link.

Best Wishes!


Thursday, November 4, 2010


           Once your group gets the hang of having a civilized conversation try adding another activity.  Play a board game once in a while. I taught a group of middle school kids with ASD to play YAHTZEE. I had no idea how much fun we would have. They loved it! They were helping each other choose what dice to keep, they worked on math skills and didn’t even realize it, they practiced taking turns, they used inside voices and they learned how to be graceful winners and graceful losers. It was amazing. 
             One student was having trouble keeping her dice in the cup. Every time she shook the cup full of dice the dice would  fly out of the cup. Her friend next to her had the solution. He took the cup with the dice inside and covered the top with his hand. In his best James Bond type voice he said, "Here Betty. Try it like this. Put your hand over the top and shake it like a martini."  
            You may already be playing board games with your kids. Work on social skills at the same time. Play Monopoly. This is great for kids who have trouble understanding the concept of money. If you don't have time to finish a game of Monopoly give everyone an envelope to put their money, token, properties etc in. Write their name on their envelope, put the game away and begin where you left off another day. This shouldn't bother your kids at all. They are from the video game generation. They put their games on pause all the time.     
The most important thing to remember is to have fun with your kids. When you practice these skills in a variety of settings it helps them bring what you've taught them into all areas of their lives. Encourage them to try the things you work on at school. Ask them how it went. Discuss what they could try next time.